The Milwaukee Film Festival is just over a month away, running April 20 through May 4. And to make the wait simultaneously easier and harder, the fest has whetted our cinematic appetites by giving us some early tastes from their 2023 menu – including their biggest appetizer yet, today revealing the selections from their Cream City Cinema category.
The program annually assembles some of the best feature films, shorts and more created by local filmmakers – this year including an existential black-and-white Milwaukee-set rom-com, a Wisconsin true crime saga, a bevy of Brew City music videos and student projects, and a 19th century fur trapper battling an onslaught of ferocious beavers. As one might expect.
"Milwaukee Film was founded with a commitment to Milwaukee’s filmmaking talent, and each year, our Cream City Cinema lineup pays back on that commitment with a lineup of films that rivals any city’s local program,” said Milwaukee Film artistic director Cara Ogburn, in a release. “This year’s lineup includes films that made their premieres at such festivals at Sundance, Fantastic Fest and SXSW, filmmakers and projects that have been supported by our array of artist services and youth education programs, and brand-new-to-us filmmakers bursting onto the scene."
Here are the eight feature-length Cream City Cinema selections coming to the Milwaukee Film Festival this spring, complete with synopses courtesy of Milwaukee Film.
"A Common Sequence"
"Mike Gibisser and Mary Helena Clark's 'A Common Sequence' brings together the disparate visual and narrative threads of a critically-endangered salamander, the apple industry, Dominican nuns running a conservation lab, fishermen attempting to live off of a depleting lake, engineers developing AI-driven harvesting machines, and an indigenous biomedical researcher resisting the commodification of human DNA, to meditate on power dynamics, the shifting border between the natural and unnatural, and questions of value, extraction, and adaptation."
"Beyond Human Nature"
"This Green Bay true crime story is handled with deft care by local director Michael Neelsen. When a man is murdered by drowning in a paper pulp vat, a small town clamors for justice and his brother comes face to face with the slippery nature of objective truth. 'Beyond Human Nature' chronicles the grisly Tom Monfils homicide investigation of 1992 through the eyes of the people who lived it."
"A familiar face in Cream City Cinema, Martin Kaszubowski returns with his solo feature debut, 'Earlybird,' which tells the story of a struggling theater owner as he tries to resuscitate his business with increasingly outlandish play productions. A meditation on creative careers and the potential for passion to fizzle out, this fictional film will hit close to home and serve as a glimmer of hope for arts patrons and workers alike."
"Hundreds of Beavers"
"From the team that brought you 'Lake Michigan Monster' (MFF2018) comes this 19th-century, black and white, no dialogue, supernatural winter epic we think both Tex Avery and Charlie Chaplin would be proud of. A drunken applejack salesman must go from zero to hero and become North America’s greatest fur trapper by defeating, yes, hundreds of beavers."
"Love & Irony"
"The search for an authentic life leads an existential bike mechanic to discover the universal truths and transformative powers of love. With stunning black-and-white cinematography and cameos from all your favorite Milwaukee businesses, 'Love & Irony' is a romantic comedy that is just as much a love letter to the Cream City itself."
"The Warm Season"
"It's 1967 and 12-year-old Clive is playing in the desert behind her family's remote motel when an unusual ranch hand mysteriously appears before her. His name is Mann, he's from another planet that is dying, and he's searching for a new place for his kind to live. Mann hands Clive a glowing orb, asks her to hide it, and promises he'll be back. Cut to 25 years later, Mann finally returns to fulfill his mission and he needs Clive's help."
"We Are Not Ghouls"
"Believing the detainees at Guantanamo Bay were 'the worst of the worst' in the war on terror in 2005, US Air Force JAG Attorney Yvonne Bradley volunteered to defend Binyam Mohamed, who was facing the death penalty. As she arrived in Cuba and began to untangle an unimaginable case, this assumption was turned upside down and she spent the next four years battling to uncover the truth. Bradley ultimately speaks truth to power in the face of corruption, proving an unlikely and unassuming force of inspiration."
"What We're Hungry For: How Food Pantries Fed Rural Wisconsin During the Pandemic"
"Documenting the response of five local Wisconsin food pantries to the unprecedented needs created by the coronavirus pandemic, this film tells the story of the hard work, ingenuity, and compassion of these organizations while also exploring the complex and longstanding challenges of fighting hunger in rural America."
Of course, the features are just one part of the film festival experience – so here are the Cream City Cinema shorts picked for this year's fest, showing in the two "Milwaukee Show" collections, the two "Milwaukee Youth Show" programs, throughout other shorts installments or as pre-feature selections.
- "100 Seconds to Midnight," directed by Libbey Kirchner
- "Are You Someplace Else?" by Dinner Set Gang, directed by Kurt Ravenwood
- "Body Legato," directed by Sam Drake
- "Clark's Revival," directed by Carl Sturgess
- "Coming to Small Town America," directed by Hasti Ghasemivaghar
- "Controlling The Change," directed by Catcher Stodola
- "DAKHLA," directed by Nick Leffel
- "Fadó," directed by Quinn Jennings
- "The False Prince Book Trailer," directed by students from Greenfield MS
- "Friday Night Blind," directed by Scott Krahn and Robb Fischer
- "Grapes," directed by Sophie Hatton
- "The Happening," directed by Evelyn Winter
- "Hawaiian Pizza," directed by Absatou (Touie) Jenneh Sow
- "The Indicators," directed by Kurt Sensenbrenner
- "Language Unknown," directed by Janelle VanderKelen
- "mother nature," directed by Sabrina Katie Woo
- "Of Wood," directed by Owen Klatte
- "Paralelos," directed by Paula Scalona
- "Parental Orbit," directed by Dara Carneol and Bernard Carneol
- "Patient," directed by Lori Felker
- "Pet World," directed by Sofia Theodore-Pierce and Grace Mitchell
- "Polka Time!," directed by Dick Blau
- "Pretty Boys," directed by Sanaa Thomas
- "Provenance: A letter to my daughter," directed by Li Chiao-Ping
- "Radium Girls Book Trailer," directed by students from Greenfield MS
- "RIP," directed by Carol Brandt and Erika Sorenson
- "Seen//Unseen," directed by T.J. Blanco
- "Seventeen," directed by Mira Santo Tomas
- "Sheep Shed" by Fuzzysurf, directed by Tommy Simms and Joe Ludwig
- "Sit Where the Light Corrupts Your Face, dir. Gillian Waldo
- "Split Memories," directed by Katya Ravie
- "Stuck Somewhere," directed by Alyssa Sue Borkowski
- "Tim Meets Mat," directed by Lucas Lovo
- "Trash Man 2: Trash Man Goes On Vacation," directed by Isabella Switalski
- "Unconventional: Living Life to the Max," directed by Hannah Johnson
- "Zayde," directed by Rachel Faye Lubar
These Cream City Cinema picks join several other Milwaukee Film Festival selections already announced – including the silent movie classic "Metropolis," restored underground throwback gems "The Doom Generation" and "Losing Ground," the new films from international masters Jafar Panahi and Cristian Mungiu, and feature-length documentary profiles on Mary Tyler Moore, Ennio Morricone and Karen Carpenter.
While it'll be another month until we get our eyeballs on all these movies, you can get your mitts on festival passes and ticket packages as we speak – and for a deal, at that, as Milwaukee Film is currently hosting a one-day flash sale featuring the lowest prices of the year thus far. To capitalize on these deals, head over to Milwaukee Film's website – and head over fast, because the flash sale pricing ends on Friday, March 17 at 9 a.m.
For more Milwaukee Film Festival updates, stay tuned to OnMilwaukee.
As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.
When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.